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Making Markets Work for the Poor

Market systems approaches, or Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) are approaches to poverty reduction that donors such as DFID, Sida and SDC have been supporting over the past few years. The central idea is that the poor are dependent on market systems for their livelihoods. Therefore changing those market systems to work more effectively and sustainably for the poor will improve their livelihoods and consequently reduce poverty.

"The last few years have seen an upsurge of interest in market development approaches amongst aid agencies. Alongside M4P there is UNDP's Growing Inclusive Markets, the IADB's Opportunities for the Majority and the IFC's Next Four Billion. Amongst businesses, there is growing interest in social investment, sustainable business practices, fair trade and engaging with the Base of the (Economic) Pyramid. Although terminology and emphasis may differ, all of these approaches see a market-based economic engagement with the poor as essential for sustainable development." (M4P Synthesis, DFID/SDC)

This page provides a comprehensive introduction to a wide range of links and documents relating to Making Markets Work - in most cases, explicitly for the Poor. The DCED also co-facilitated an M4P Peer Learning Event in May 2013. This focused on six themes: designing and implementing M4P strategies, negotiating deals, team structures and capacity building, managing for impact, working in thin markets, and working alongside direct approaches. The event report with programme perspectives on the six themes is available here.

A wide range of resources are also available on the BEAM Exchange website (not to be confused with Finnish BEAM).

Suggestions for additions to this page are welcome at any time. Click here to contact the DCED Secretariat.

The M4P approach in context: How does it compare to other PSD approaches?

Design and Implementation

This section lists generic documents on the design and implementation of M4P programmes. It includes value chain analysis guides, which exemplify the application of an M4P lens to value chain analysis.

M4P Case Studies

Below you can find case studies and overviews of selected M4P programmes and projects. For further programme- and project-specific information, please refer to

Case studies of ongoing programmes

Older programme summaries and case studies

Market approaches to social and basic service delivery

Overview documents

Several blog posts discuss the role of the private sector in the provision of basic services – such as health, education and water supply. A common thread is the argument that private providers already play a key role in providing poor people with access to basic services, and that governments can make better use of this opportunity through partnerships and appropriate policies towards private providers.

M4P in Education Programmes

M4P in Health Programmes

M4P in Water and Sanitation Programmes

M4P in Environment Programmes

M4P Programme Websites and other Useful Links

M4P Programme Websites

Images courtesy of africa/www.freedigitalphotos.netdjembe / 123RF Stock Photo; Katalyst; and africa/; Paul Prescott/ 123rf Stock Photo